Wi-Fi Heat Here!”
Grace Manning ’21
My family lives in Ireland and my two little sisters called me the other day with pressing news. They told me that their tiny school up in the Wicklow Mountains didn’t have any heat that day, so they had to wear their coats inside, huddle together and run around at recess for warmth. My first thought was, why is this school not closed? But my sisters reassured me that it had been an adventure and that (for the week they didn’t have heat), they had run out every time they heard a truck go lumbering by in hopes that it was the oil truck, there to restore heat. When the oil truck did come, it was met with swarms of small children whooping in glee and running in circles around the oil man, over the moon with the fact that they would no longer be cold in school. In hearing this story, I was prompted to ask myself, have we gotten too comfortable and reliant on our material comforts? We expect Wi-Fi to be in every restaurant, at every café and in every corner of Holy Cross and the wider world. We are put out and frustrated when we aren’t met with the glaringly illuminated sign saying, “Free Wi-Fi Here!” We require a level of privacy and cleanliness, even here at school, that we take for granted as things that we deserve. But why is it that we have such different standards of comfort to many other countries?
I myself have had experiences growing up in Europe where there would be no running water that day in primary school or where our teacher would assign us, “Buy and sleep with a hot water bottle” as homework because she assumed that most children didn’t have central heating and she didn’t want her class to get sick. We accepted these discomforts with the innocence and sense of adventure that children have, but we also accepted them because we didn’t know anything different. It was normal to go to an old, crumbling, drafty school in the mountains. It was normal to come home to a house heated only by roaring wood fires and stoves that were kept on all year. So, is this just a generational expectation of luxuries? To an extent it is. We are the worldliest, most health-conscious and most caring generation so far, but we could also be defined as the most addicted to technology and the most spoiled generation. We have the luxury of a thousand apps and limitless information at our fingertips, but this comes with a price. As soon as the device that makes our lives so much easier is taken out of the equation, we are lost. But it could also be a country by country difference in expectations. Here in the United States, the technology is more developed and the people and country as a whole are modernizing so much faster than anywhere else in the world. Things like the Amazon devices Echo and Alexa, for example, are only starting to appear in Ireland, whereas they have been a feature of American life for quite a bit longer. Movies appear later in Europe, trends start later and people tend to move at a slower pace abroad.
While material comforts can be necessary, is our reliance on them making us adverse to change and unable to cope with scarcity? Something as simple as the electricity going out during a storm leaves us scrambling for candles and flashlights and in bad moods because we can’t use the microwave or because we have to wash our dishes by hand for one night. But 16 percent of the world’s population (1.2 billion people) lives without electricity. For those who never had it in the first place, the lack of electricity simply can’t prevent them from moving on with their lives. They can’t afford to let deprivation or scarcity bother them like we can let it bother us. When we lose electricity, we can complain for a couple of hours until it turns back on. We have the luxury of getting to complain because we know that it will inevitably be restored. Has this expectation of certain luxuries reached a level of excessiveness in our society today? Although I can acknowledge that discomfort is relative and that we have different life experience than people in other countries, there are still complaints that bother me. That the dorm rooms at Holy Cross are too small, not modern or technologically updated and that there isn’t much availability for single rooms. Or that Kimball doesn’t offer every single kind of popular breakfast cereal known to man. These are complaints that we as students here are so lucky to be able to make. We don’t have to think about whether or not we’ll be warm when we’re sleeping or whether we’ll have a place to sleep at all. We don’t have to go to class starving or skip meals. So, the next time we are tempted to make a fuss about not having something we think we just can’t live without for the hour or so that we are deprived of it, we should stop and think instead about what life would be like if we really had to live without the things we consider to be basic material comforts. And if these are called comforts, are they something we really need at all?